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March 9, 2005 3:00 AM

Syria's exit may mean more power for Hezbollah in Lebanon

If Syrian forces leave Lebanon in the face of growing international and Lebanese pressure, the Islamic militant group Hezbollah entrenched in this Bekaa Valley hamlet and across much of eastern and southern Lebanon is ready to fill the military and political vacuum. Should it succeed, the anti-Syrian democratic protests that have attracted so much international attention since opposition leader Rafik Hariri was assassinated Feb. 14 could prove stillborn. Instead of clearing the way for pro-Western democrats, Syrias withdrawal could bring to the fore a virulently anti-Western political force believed to be responsible for attacks on U.S. Marines and the American Embassy in Beirut and for kidnapping dozens of foreigners.

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